The Last Sunday of January

Psalm 84:5-7 5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. 6 As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.

On the last Sunday afternoon in January of 1999, the phone rang and a voice asked me if he could speak to my husband.  At that time, my husband was in Veterinary School and played in a Sunday afternoon InterMural ball league at NC State University.  My papers lay spread out over our dining room table like a patchwork tablecloth where I had been working on lesson plans for my National Board Certification.  

The male’s voice on the phone spoke words that I never expected to hear:  my brother-in-law had been killed by a drunk driver on the previous night on an interstate in Georgia.  He could not reach my inlaws by phone so I was the first family member to receive the horrific news. My eyes poured tears into soft white tissues as I stared out our kitchen window waiting to deliver this news once my husband got home.  Gripping my Bible and the kitchen counter, my knuckles turned white as he arrived. The car door slammed shut, the front door opened and our lives would never be the same.  

When my husband entered our house, he recognized my red splotchy face immediately and inquired, “What’s wrong?”  I told him the news, then he collapsed on my chest and fell to the ground.  

This scene has replayed in my mind now for 21 years.  Prior to it, we were newly married, in our honeymoon phase and new townhome owners.  After that day, tears and silence became our pattern through this valley of weeping. Family and Friends comforted us with cards, food and prayers.  The Holy Spirit held us and my husband’s parents. We now have our new normal without our beloved family member but had to go on a long journey to get to the other side of grief. 

In Psalm 84:5-7, we see a picture of travelers on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship but they traveled through the Valley of Baca or Valley of Tears.  This area was a dry and desolate place where there was no water. They had to get through this hard trip but at some point, there was a need to pause and dig until they discovered water. 

There was a way through the valley by the travellers making it a place of springs.  They had to dig down into the ground until they hit water to provide for their physical need to drink and be nourished.  They didn’t just sit around and hope for the best; they took action. They needed to get through the valley of weeping to get to the venue of worship in Jerusalem.  

Not only do we sometimes walk through stress, whether it be relational, financial or spiritual, but we need to always keep in mind that we’re on a pilgrimage, a journey.  We will get through this. But, we’ll get through it by recognizing the power of pausing, praying and pondering truth. It’s taking time to let the healing water flow then he’ll send His Spirit to be our comfort and strength.  Tears will flow, but the rains will eventually come and fill the pools that we dug in the dry valley. The God who always makes a way where there seems to be no way, will help us.   

During my family’s devastation, I decided to listen to encouraging Christian songs, go to church, read my Bible and pray.  Like the traveler heading to Jerusalem through the Valley of Weeping, the outward circumstance caused stress; there were inward feelings of strain and irritation concerning how we would survive the life changing event.  The darkness seemed to last forever but God was with us. His Holy Spirit heard my prayers for the light to return as I saw my husband and his parents weep until they had no more tears. Even through two court trials in Georgia to hold accountable the drunk driver, His presence was there hearing every desperate cry as we endured the details of how Eric died.  

This was a season unlike any other that I have experienced.  In our valley of weeping, we prayed, we cried and we waited. This pause in our lives caused us to dig deep into our life long faith in Jesus.  We had no where else to go but to Him in prayer and by reading His Word. The Spirit of God comforts us in our suffering and in that valley of the shadow of death, He never let us go.

We came out of this time with the knowledge that we’ll see my brother-in-law again in heaven which gives great hope and comfort.  We miss him at every holiday and special event. I know he would have loved our little girls and showered them with love. I’ll never really understand why it had to happen to him, why I’ll never be able to see his face on earth, or why my husband, our marriage and his parents had to endure such turmoil, but I know that God in his great mercy helped us all experience His peace and comfort which strengthened us during our journey through the sadness.

What looks like an impossible journey can provide a reason to stop, pray, read the Word and be refreshed recognizing that God is in control.  He is with us. There is a place of refuge on the other side of the grief. We still are sad and miss our loved one but can function and live our lives to the fullest because God was with us through the valley of weeping. 

This week on January 31, it will be 21 years since Eric left us to be with Jesus. He had wished his precious mother “Happy Birthday” on the day before he passed. Thank you, friends, for your prayers and positive thoughts as this week is always just a bit more difficult.

No Rock Like Our God

1Samuel 2:2 ESV

There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; for there is no rock like our God.

While weeding my flower garden, I unearthed a boulder rock. Well, not quite as big as a boulder but in the context of my garden space, it seemed to be like no other that I had ever seen in my yard.

I am really not great at gardening but like to plant flowers in the front and back gardens in my yard. After finding a hydrangea bush at a local store with deep purple and lavender blooms, I knew that it would be perfect in a specific garden spot in my yard and have room to get bigger. So, I grabbed a shovel and dug a significant hole in which it would sit. Normally, I would not have to dig so deep to plant vinca and other flowers in this garden space so digging deep in the ground with a shovel, not just a hand trowel, was new for me.

I could tell I had hit a rock because of the loud ding that the shovel made. It surprised me to realize that this rock had been under my yard for years, right under other plants which had grown above it during other years. But sure enough, there it was. I knew that the rock needed to be removed to allow space for the hydrangea so I found the edges of it and slid the shovel under it. I gave it my best effort and lifted the massive rock out of the earth.

I had to use the shovel to hoist the rock up and to the surface as it lay hidden in my flower bed. I placed it along the edge of the garden and noticed that it is unlike any of the other small rock pieces which I had also found while weeding.

Just like there in the garden where I least expected to find a rock, a massive 12 inch wide and two-three inch deep rock, I know that I will notice God in places where I least expect. I had started digging after hearing some troubling news at my doctor. Jabbing my shovel into the ground distracted me as I processed the doctor’s words. “There’s no way to know what this mass is in your foot unless an MRI is done.”

“What could happen?”, I thought.

“Don’t be anxious”, I replied back to my own mind.

Two dear teacher friends comforted me the next morning and one of them prayed for me. I sensed that God was moving in closer to me as we drew close to Him. Others are praying too for me for which I am grateful. The friends and family who pray for you in a crisis are the ones which God uses to remind you of His faithfulness. One of my friends sent me these comforting words which are a Scripture that she loves in Jeremiah 29:11:

He has the master plan because He is holy. He knows that I need hope and a future.

He is a Rock like no other. I had never faced an issue like this one but knew God would show up, just like that rock appeared out of no where in my garden. I have trusted God to heal and renew my foot.

Sweat rolled into my eyes stinging them with salt while I dug with my shovel on that humid, almost summer day in mid June.  I lifted the hydrangea out of its box then into the circular hole in the garden. It finally had a home. Bright pink and purple flowers stand around the hydrangea as if they are its protective barrier. Now, when I water my plants each day and see their growth, I see the rock in the corner of my garden to remind me that God is my Rock. He is with me and provides a constant peace that passes my limited understanding.

He allows my circumstances and knows what will happen. I had several appointments with a few foot doctors after the MRI was done. As I waited to hear their assessment, I trusted in my God knowing He is my Rock. Jesus was broken so that I could experience wholeness. I prayed for healing for my body.

I am thrilled to report that there is nothing in my foot that needs any treatment or surgery. There is a mass near a tendon but these types of masses just sometimes happen. The mass could go away but there is no cause for concern!

He helped and comforted me in the waiting. God is my Rock. I am grateful for this great news! As I waited to hear from each doctor, God lead me to walk closer to Him and feel His presence near. I hope you will join me in thanking God and praising Him for this news. He kept me calm through the waiting. There is no rock like our God!

Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!